Tony Blair calls out government's failure to adopt new tech

Former PM says there's a "great gulf" between those creating technology and those creating policy

Governments need to take lessons from the acceleration in technology fuelled by the coronavirus pandemic, according to Tony Blair. 

The UK's former Prime Minister said that bureaucracies have a "genius for inertia but not for momentum to change" during the CogX virtual event on Tuesday. 

Blair compared the current adoption of technology as the 21st-century equivalent of the industrial revolution, adding that it will change everything from the way we live to the way we work and even the way we interact.

But he suggested there was a "great gulf" in understanding between those creating technology and those creating policy. 

He warned that the gap between the two needed to be bridged because technology is going to be an important part, not just of the COVID crisis, but for the future of work and the type of economy that is set to develop in the coming years. 

"The thing that's going to be interesting is whether government itself can change," he said. "A lot of people in business, who are running businesses, they understand they've got to change because otherwise, frankly, they will go out of business.

"The problem with government is getting things done; they talk, talk, talk but getting implementation in place is really difficult. And secondly, governments don't like change." 

An early indication of governments resisting change can be found in the UK, where MPs recently reverted back to physically voting in Parliament, rather than doing so online. With all the talk of remote and cloud-based technologies set to become the new normal, the government has already opted to go back to the old ways. 

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"In all of these areas, we've got to be making sure that government itself takes some of these lessons into its internal systems, otherwise you'll find business moves fast but government moves slow," he added.  

"We have been driven by necessity these last few weeks to do things differently, but let's see how we can continue to do things differently. Are we really saying that we want to go back to face-to-face consultations with doctors?"

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